Sourdough starter culture microbiomes influence physical and chemical properties of wheat bread

Caitlin S. Clark, Ashley Ohstrom, M. Laura Rolon, Molly Smith, Benjamin E. Wolfe, Josephine Wee, Charlene B. Van Buiten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: Sourdough fermentation is an ancient leavening method that uses wild yeasts to produce carbon dioxide, contributing to bread rise, and bacteria which produce organic acids. Sourdough starter cultures are known to be diverse in terms of the microorganisms they comprise and while specific genera and species of microorganisms have been identified from starters and associated with specific attributes, overarching relationships between sourdough starter culture microbiomes and bread quality are not well understood. The objective of this study was to characterize differences in the physical and chemical properties of breads produced with sourdough starter cultures with unique microbiomes. Sourdough starter cultures (n = 20) of known microbial populations were used to produce wheat-based dough and bread, which were analyzed for chemical and physical properties then compared to their microbial populations in order to identify relationships between microbial profiles and dough/bread qualities. All samples were also compared to bread produced only with Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker's yeast). Significant differences among pH, titratable acidity, loaf volume, crumb firmness, crust color, free amino acids, and organic acids were observed when comparing sourdough breads to the yeast-only control (p ≤ 0.05). Furthermore, bacterial diversity of sourdough starter cultures was correlated with lactic acid and free amino acid in the dough and loaf volume and crumb firmness of baked breads. No significant correlations were found between fungal diversity and measured outcomes. These data demonstrate the importance of considering sourdough starter microbiomes as an ingredient in baked goods and they contribute to quality and safety outcomes in bread production. Practical Application: Sourdough starter cultures have diverse and dynamic populations of bacteria and yeasts, which contribute to the production of bread products. These populations can influence the physical and chemical properties of sourdough fermentation and final breads. Understanding of the relationship between sourdough starter microbiomes and bread quality parameters can lead to targeted development of sourdough bread products with specific physical and chemical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1414-1427
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Food Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science

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